A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, March 4, 2012


(Above: The Montclair Women's Big Band)

Hey, all you young jazzwomen. (And there are a lot of you out there - more than you know.) Tired of being one of the only females in the band?
Wondering where all the other girls are?
Thinking about joining a jazz group, but feeling shy or discouraged by the lack of other female musicians?
Have I got an event for you!
Come to Berkeley High next Saturday, March 10, for the first ever JazzGirls Day, led by prominent professional women jazz musicians and educators, including trombonist Sarah Cline, director of the Berkeley High Jazz Program; trumpet player Ellen Seeling, director of the Montclair Women's Big Band; tenor saxophonist Jean Fineberg, co-director of the Jazzschool Girls Jazz & Blues Camp; and pianist Susan Muscarella, founder and executive director of the Jazzschool.
"We'll play some tunes, have a jam session, break into groups by instrument, and talk about our experiences as women and girls in the jazz world," says Cline, the first female to head Berkeley High's award-winning jazz program.
This event is for girls only. It's absolutely free. And you don't have to be a student at Berkeley High. It's open to all girls age 10 and older who sing or play an instrument.
"Bring all your friends," says Cline, "even if they don't play jazz yet."
JazzGirls Day will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. Please RSVP to Cline at sarahcline@berkeley.net to let her know you're coming.
Not only is admission free, attendees will also get discounts on tickets to another, related event happening that evening and the next day a few blocks away: the first annual Jazzschool Women's Jazz Festival.
Saturday night features the Young Lionesses, an all-star band of emerging jazz stars in their twenties and early thirties, including pianist Erika Oba and alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, already a legend for her bebop solos.
On Sunday afternoon, a dream team of veteran jazzwomen - including Cline, Fineberg, Seeling, bassists Carla Kaufman and Ruth Davies, alto saxist Mad Duran, and drummer Kelly Fasman - will join forces at the Jazzschool for a once-in-a-lifetime concert.
Each of them has a well-established reputation, but this will be the first time they've all played together. Tickets are expected to go fast, so call the Jazzschool at 510-845-5373 to reserve yours now.
It's hard to believe in 2012, but jazz, unfortunately, is still a bastion of male chauvinist piggery. Unless they're singers, jazzwomen have a hard time getting gigs with bands, bookings at jazz festivals, or teaching positions with major university jazz programs.
Things really haven't changed since Cline was a student at Berkeley High herself 30 years ago. At the time, she was one of only two girls in the school's highest-level jazz ensemble.
Despite all her efforts, guess how many girls are in that jazz ensemble today? The same number: two.
That's why she and her fellow musicians are putting on next weekend's events: to tell the next generation of jazzwomen, "Yes, you can."
Have a blast next weekend, girls. And don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't play jazz as well as boys.
It's about as valid as something similar I used to hear all the time in the 1950s and early '60s, when NBA coaches, players and sportswriters all firmly believed that African Americans can't play basketball as well as whites.

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